From £31,5356
Hyundai gives its mid-size SUV an N-inspired sporting treatment. We drive it to see if it's all style and no substance

What is it?

Here we have another example of Hyundai’s halfway-house sporting trim line, applied to the brand’s big-selling family SUV. We first sampled the delights of N-Line last year in the i30, bridging the market gap between the fizzing heat of the i30 N and the stark tepidity of the regular hatchback.

This doesn’t apply to the Hyundai Tucson, however - at least for the time being. Word on the street is that a full-fat Cupra Ateca rival is in the works, but that’s a good year away at the very least. So, if you want a sporty Tucson, here’s your lot for now. Think Volkswagen’s R-Line and Ford’s ST-Line trims to understand the intention.

However, perhaps even 'sporty' is an adjective too far for the particular variant we’re testing here: the fleet-friendly 1.6-litre diesel, which is boosted by a recently introduced 48V mild hybrid system. Thankfully, you can also have a 174bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.

Most of the appeal here is visual, then. There’s black detailing everywhere, black 19in alloy wheels, a unique LED daytime running light design and bespoke bumpers. As well as some familiar N brand touches inside, including red leather stitching, there are more supportive seats and the same gearknob as the i30 N. 

Hyundai claims a bit of dynamic substance here, though; the suspension is lightly tweaked for tighter body control, while the software calibration of the steering is revised with the aim of giving “a more direct, linear feel”.

What's it like?

This car is as good as it needs to be, for Hyundai at least, given that most customers in this segment aren’t generally all that fussed about a sparkling driving experience. 

The standard Tucson is entirely inoffensive to drive, and with the minor changes made under the skin here, there are no great revelations.

The diesel engine is the very definition of a modest performer. Its torque advantage over the petrol should give it reasonable reserves of low-down urge, but even though that means you’re not thumping it towards the redline out of every junction, you’ll soon become familiar with the end of the throttle pedal’s travel just to keep up with the pace of rush-hour motorists. 

Doing so isn’t too unpleasant, because the unit is a good deal more refined than the rattly old 1.7-litre, but it’s hardly thrilling. Given you’ll be stirring it in often, the manual gearbox is at least fairly satisfying to operate. Either way, this doesn’t feel like an appropriate powertrain for a sportified model. 

As with the multitude of mild hybrid systems we’ve experienced over the past couple of years, the Tucson's operates largely inperceptibly. Hyundai claims the little 0.44kWh battery can provide up to a 16bhp boost to reduce load on the engine, while the stop-start system can cut in below 20mph if it thinks you’re coming to a halt.

The N-Line seems the perfect opportunity to finally give the Tucson a chassis set-up that can rival the Seat Ateca for dynamic composure, but subtlety seems to have been the name of the game for Hyundai’s engineers. The springs are 8% stiffer at the rear and just 5% stiffer at the front, we're told, which sounds about as transformative as it actually is.

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To Hyundai's credit, there’s a fair amount of composure and body control is fine for the most part, but press on and there’s still plenty of vertical motion and a ride that goes from very smooth to a bit unsettled when you find yourself on a rough B-road. You can put some of the blame for this on the bigger wheels.

The steering tune is successful enough, however: the quicker response to inputs enhances the Tucson’s feeling of agility on turn-in. Overall, however, there’s nothing to even raise the eyebrow of a keen driver here. 

Should I buy one?

This is not the Tucson to buy. At least not with this powertrain if you want even the slightest illusion of sportiness. 

The Tucson is a fundamentally fine, if slightly insipid, SUV that sits in the well of acceptable competency alongside cars like the Renault Kadjar and its Kia Sportage sibling. With the diesel engine, it’s frugal and quiet enough, too.

But bar a fraction more style and some comfier seats, N-Line doesn’t offer enough to justify the trade-off of a less comfortable ride in base diesel form. Perhaps it does with the petrol engine, though, and at least the trim’s additions don’t add too much to the price. 

Hyundai Tucson 1.6 CRDi N-Line specification

Where Cotswolds, UK Price £27,760 On sale Now Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, turbo, diesel Power 134bhp at 4000rpm Torque 236 ft at 2000-2250rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1537kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 11.2sec Fuel economy 48.7mpg (WLTP) CO2 113g/km (WLTP) Rivals Seat Ateca FR, Mazda CX-5

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Bangbox 18 May 2019


A side-issue I suppose, but is the Focus Estate really a small car?  The new ones are bigger than the Mk1 Mondeo estates, and probably have as much usable room inside as many a mid or large sized SUV.  I'd have the old Mondeo though and keep the change.

Rollocks 18 May 2019


At less than 4.5m from bumper to bumper, the Tuscon is very small by SUV standards. In fact it's almost 20cm shorter than a Focus estate, which is probably most people's definition of a small car. The Santa Fe is Hyundai's mid-size SUV and the Palisade (which I don't think is currently sold in Britain) is their large SUV.

We must get these details right, imho ... unless of course you're happy to fall for the manufacturers' marketing spin (aka lies).

michael knight 18 May 2019

Silly marketing decision: N

Silly marketing decision: N-Line on this, that scrapes to 60 in just under 12 seconds makes the 'N' thing a complete joke.